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I’ve been to Punishment

And learnt a thing or two…

 Did you know that reward is four times more successful in treating offenders than punishment? In other words, they’re four times less likely to re-offend if reward is deployed as a means of prevention. At it’s core, it’s the emphasis on treatment rather then punishment. 

This is something that most people are unaware of and politicians will play this ignorance to show that they are hard on law and order. Yet this fact, obtained from research and evidence is a well known piece of information in the corridors of Whitehall: civil servants know it; politicians know it. But the temptation to go along with a populist agenda is often more present than informing the public about other more successful ways of addressing treatment and prevention. 

This belief in punishment is something deeply ingrained in our culture, yet one that most people will hardly ever openly admit. Punishment is our form of retribution for those who threaten our safety or material well-being. 

We learnt this in the unlikely setting of a local pub whilst listening to government Forensic Psychologist Dr Ruth Mann, who was one of the guest speakers for the Salon London event that took place at the KPH pub a few weeks ago.

Other guest speakers included Katy Emck from Fine Cell Work, an organisation that trains prisoners, giving them the ability to develop skills and earn a wage through the surprising medium of high-end needlework. One surprising fact about this original social enterprise is that 80% of the inmates who volunteer to do this needlework, are male. 

Katy is the Fine Cell Work development director and has been involved before with Geese, a prison theatre company, before working as a literary academic and journalist. She delivered a passionate presentation of her experience with inmates, the kind of work developed, the quality of the items produced. In all, a truly inspiring experience. 

The evening was closed with comedian and writer Wil Hodgon’s hit Edinburgh show ‘You Will be Taken from This Place”  - in essence a look at the gruesome history of Britain’s hangmen, with the true histories of those tasked by the state until 1964 to deliver the ultimate punishment. Wil Hodgon has a funny and unique way of delivering this unfolding drama. From what appears to be one single breath, he tells the stories of these characters, their ambitions, fears and predicaments. The story lines entwine, the description is detailed and colourful. We know the end to this story, but Wil engages our attention, with humour, eloquence and intensity.  

Salon London was a special night out. It’s almost as if you have the benefits of a BBC Newsnight guest speaker as well as sitting in the front row of the Edinburgh Festival. The range and approach of these Salon events is pretty unique. All of this happening in a very easy and relaxed environment… in a local pub. Juliet Russell and Helen Bagnall (who together with Diccon Towns, founded Salon London) are the visible and charming hosts of the evening. They make sure that everything runs smoothly, and also encourage the discussion – after all, these events are conceived to discuss ideas and stimulate our intellectual curiosity. 

Thankfully Salon London will be back in our neighbourhood this Wednesday with a follow up on the Crime, Punishment and RETRIBUTION theme. If you have attended their previous event, you’re likely to want to attend it again. If you haven’t, you may be enticed at the quality of their speakers - Check out the details of the event below: 

Retribution: Forgiving your father's killer | Retribution and the riots | The psychology of revenge.

Can forgiveness ever be a form of retribution? Jo Berry’s father was killed by an IRA bomb, yet she sought out the man responsible to try to understand his motivations. Since then she has worked to resolve conflict by breaking the cycle of vengeance through her charity Building Bridges for Peace. Hear her story.

Prof. Tim Newburn is a Professor of Criminology and Social Policy at the LSE, and the co-author of the highly acclaimed ‘Reading the Riots’ project. Tim will be helping us to understand society’s need for retribution, it’s role within gang culture, and how its role changes during times of social unrest.

Are you a vengeful person? To find out we’ve asked leading neuroscientist Dr Molly Crockett to step away from her experimental psychology lab at the University of Oxford to help the Salon audience to evaluate in some scientific detail our own morality and altruism as she presents The Psychology of Revenge. 

Salon London will also be showing a short film by Creating Freedom's Alex Dower

Event takes place this Wednesday, November 5th at the KPH pub. For listing and tickets see Crime, Punishment ...   

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